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Interview with Manikantan SU

He is a Data Analyst by profession and a TEFL-certified English Trainer. He is adept at teaching difficult concepts in a simple manner. He resides in Chennai with his wife and 2-year-old son.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I was a sleepwalker during childhood. I have vague memories of knocking on someone’s else door at midnight, thinking it was my home.

Q.2 What inspired you to create a book that combines English grammar with the world of Harry Potter?
My experience of learning grammar has always been a drab affair and I am yet to see a Grammar book that one can really classify as ‘interesting’. I think J.K. Rowling’s biggest achievement was that she made an entire generation take up books again. No other book has captured the minds of youngsters in such a manner before. I have always felt it’s easy to teach a difficult-to-grasp concept if you can make it interesting enough.

Q.3 Are there any plans to expand this concept to other popular literary works or series in the future? If so, can you provide a glimpse into what readers can expect?
I would like to teach Grammar via the Indian Epics - Ramayana and Mahabharatha.

Q.4 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign.
Ensuring that the book is seen by the right audience is probably the most difficult part of writing a book. My plan is to ensure to get the word out on all social media, book blogs, book subscription services & running school campaigns.

Q.5 What are the three things you want readers to take away from your book?
A. 1.
English Grammar is easy. Don’t get scared by the Latin words.

2. You don’t need to know all the rules of Grammar.

3. Keep it simple. (Refer to the poems and the summary tables).

Q.6 Did you encounter any challenges in striking the right balance between making the book accessible to young readers and ensuring it remains informative and educational?
First of all, I wanted to keep it simple. That is the reason I opted for a poem to introduce ‘Parts of Speech’. This poem alone is sufficient for an average person to grasp the concept. Similarly, my experience of learning tenses was that for each tense, a different example would be used. I wanted to ensure all tenses are illustrated using a single sentence. Hence you will find a summary table that can act as a handy ready reckoner for tenses without having to learn the rules for each tense. Further, I trusted J.K. Rowling to keep young readers hooked.

Q.7 How did you approach the task of integrating the beloved characters and stories of Harry Potter into the teaching of English grammar?
A. J.K. Rowling’s
English has a class to it. Further, the depth and vastness of the series ensure that you can always find what you are looking for in the book. For ex: I was impressed by this line from the book - What you fear most of all is fear. The sentence is impressive from a psychological point of view, but what I loved more was the 2 usages of the word ‘fear’ - one as a noun and one as a verb.

Q.8 Could you tell us a bit about your background in teaching grammar and language learning? How did your expertise influence the writing of this book?
I started reading books at a very young age and am proficient in the language. I am a TEFL-certified English trainer and have worked for a few years as a Spoken English trainer. I have also worked on a few freelance translation projects. 

While writing this book, I felt that the emphasis shouldn’t be on learning the rules of Grammar, like ‘ing’ for continuous tense, etc.; there are hundreds of grammar books that explain the rules of Grammar, but more of how to present the grammar concepts in an easily understandable manner and using examples that can be recalled quickly.

Q.9 How do you think the inclusion of exercises and practice questions at the end of each chapter contributes to the overall learning experience for readers?
Let me give an example from the book. This is the textbook definition of active and passive voice.

Active voice: A verb is in active voice when its form shows that the person or thing denoted by the subject does something.

Passive voice: A verb is in the passive voice when its form shows that something is done to the person or thing denoted by the subject.

This may make sense to someone who is at an intermediate level in Grammar, but for a beginner, when once I say:

Active voice: The Wand chooses the Wizard.

Passive voice: The Wizard is chosen by the Wand.

Then the definition begins to make sense. That’s what good examples and exercises are supposed to do - reinforce the concept.

Q.10 What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I felt like I had truly achieved something.

Q.11 In your opinion, what are some of the unique advantages of using fictional literature, like the Harry Potter series, as a tool for teaching grammar compared to traditional textbooks or resources?
Again, let me give you 2 examples of future continuous tense:

Traditional Example -
In November, I will have been working at my company for three years.

Harry Potter Example - Hermione will have been Minister of Magic for 10 years during the centenary celebrations of Hogwarts.

Where do you think more emotion is involved? When you are emotionally involved when learning something, you tend to remember and recall better.

Q.12 Did you encounter any surprises or unexpected discoveries while writing this book that enriched your understanding of English grammar or the Harry Potter series?
What was a surprise to me was the ease with which I could find examples from Harry Potter for every grammar concept and scenario that I wanted to explain. Shows how rich the Harry Potter books series is.

Q.13 What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I spend 2 hours a day late at night writing after my son goes to sleep, and the home is peaceful for a while.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I am always interested to find out if I am using the least number of words possible to explain a concept.

Q.15 While the book appeals to Harry Potter fans, do you believe it can also benefit readers who are less familiar with the series? How did you address this potential audience in your writing?
Those not in the Harry Potter club will not necessarily feel left out. Instead of examples based on Jack or Mary, here they will see Harry or Hermione. For them, this could be just another grammar book, but it presents the advantage of simple explanations, relevant examples, and exercises to cover all potential scenarios.

Q.16 Have you received any feedback from readers or educators who have used your book in classrooms or language learning settings? If so, what has been their response?
I have received some highly encouraging feedback from educators for the concept, but only time will tell how successful this will be in classrooms.

Q.17 Who edited your book, and how did you select them?
The book was edited/proofread by 3 different English graduates/teachers.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Dr.Vikram Sarabhai
. Probably India’s greatest visionary. I would like to understand how he formulated his vision and executed it.

Q.19 What advice would you give to aspiring authors or educators who aim to create innovative and engaging resources for language learning?
The world needs more of you.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
A. Edison
once said - Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. The same is true when you want to create something new, I guess. When you get a unique idea, it inspires you to start. From then on, you will have to persevere every day till the idea reaches fruition. Inspiration à Perseverance à Satisfaction. That’s the journey.

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